Former minister seeks bail in EVM theft case, gets interim relief

Madhav Kinhalkar
A month after a Hyderabad-based researcher was arrested for the alleged theft of an electronic voting machine (EVM) from Mumbai, former minister of state Madhav Kinhalkar has moved the sessions court for anticipatory bail in the case. The court has granted him interim relief till October 8.

Kinhalkar, a former minister of state for home and a former NCP member, had unsuccessfully contested against Chief Minister Ashok Chavan in the Assembly polls last year as an Independent. He has alleged that the local police have been harassing him after he filed complaints against Chavan, including one for alleged electoral malpractice.

"I have had a long political career and my experience says my loss to the chief minister in elections was not a coincidence. I have filed complaints with Election Commissioner and moved a petition in HC against him. This is just an attempt to scuttle my efforts to expose corruption in polls," his petition says.

Kinhalkar, who was with the Congress earlier, was elected from Bhokar twice before he shifted to the NCP in 1999. He and his brother Satish Kinhalkar filed the anticipatory bail application after receiving notices from the MRA Marg police station, directing them to appear for questioning. "Earlier, they (police) had sent a similar notice to tribal rights activist Mukund Lagoo from Pune. And on his arrival in Mumbai, he was arrested and sent to police custody. We are apprehensive the police will use similar tactics with us too," they said in their application.

The police have so far booked Hyderabad-based researcher Hari Prasad and Lagoo in the case. But they have not been able to ascertain who stole the machine from the collector's office in Mumbai.

Kinhalkar said in his plea that he had met Hari Prasad early this year after he learnt that the researcher had found that the machine could be tampered with. "I had met him just to satisfy my speculation that Chavan also won the poll by tampering with the machine."

Prasad was arrested nearly four months after he appeared in a local channel demonstrating the ways an EVM could be tampered with. He had, in his demonstration, claimed that a small part of the machine could be replaced with a look-alike component that can be instructed to steal a percentage of votes in favour of a chosen candidate. He also claimed that he had, in the process, met several politicians, whom the police are now questioning for their possible role in the theft.

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